Shanahan blasts special teams

Shanahan blasts special teams
December 10, 2013, 10:45 am
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Shanahan 'disappointed' by Niles Paul's comments

All season long the Redskins’ special teams have been a thorn in team’s side. The list of gaffes is long from a blocked punt to a rolled long snap on another punt to a comical play where half of the punt team thought a fake had been called and the rest of the players line up didn’t get the memo.

All this is in addition to allowing long returns by the boatload, including the daily double of a punt return and kickoff return TD against the Chiefs, and suffering from a return game of their own that is stuck in the mud.

For most of the season, Mike Shanahan has treated the subject of special teams with kid gloves. He has been critical but usually careful to dish out some praise in equal or even greater portions.

That ended on Monday. Asked if he still thought that the Redskins were on the right track, Shanahan first touched on that fact that Robert Griffin III missed the offseason, hampering his development. Then he went in after the special teams.

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“I was hoping to be a lot better on special teams than we have been,” he said. “We don’t have quite the depth that we did have a year ago. I think our kickers are struggling, relative to our punter and our place kicker, with distance. That doesn’t help your special teams as well. We’re going to have to make some improvement in a couple of areas and hopefully we can get there.”

You certainly can’t question Shanahan’s accuracy here. Kicker Kai Forbath is 33rd in the NFL in average kickoff distance and 32nd in touchbacks. Punter Sav Rocca is 33rd in the league in net punting average. These issues have been consistent all year and yet neither has had a challenge for his job from training camp on.

Shanahan also took a shot at Niles Paul, one of the special teams’ few consistent performers. When asked to comment on Paul saying that he detected a lack of effort on kicking teams, the coach said, “I’m surprised Niles Paul would say that, to start with. Once you start playing a perfect game you can start critiquing other players. So, yeah, that does disappoint me that he would say something like that.”

So, instead of commenting on the effort of his players, Shanahan calls out one of the leaders for calling out those who aren’t giving their all.

A week ago, Shanahan said that he was not going to play any younger players to see what they can do even though the team was officially eliminated from the playoffs. He said that was a good way to lose the locker room.

Instead, he appears to be losing the locker room from the press conference podium. In addition to Forbath, Rocca, and Paul, Shanahan essentially called out his offensive line by saying he might bench Robert Griffin III because the pass protection endangers the QB’s health.